Respect for film sites in NZ

Respect for film sites in NZ

Film tourists trespassing on private land and trampling over vulnerable natural areas, plus entire communities feeling displaced by visiting film buffs are issues the film tourism sector must urgently address.

Speaking at a joint Tourism Ireland/Tourism New Zealand Screen Tourism discussion, in Wellington last week, industry experts warned that maintaining the natural integrity of film locations and the ‘social licence’ to visit them are essential.

Diehard fans come with great expectations.

They also want to take something home so you need to have that ‘respect the land’ conversation with your clients, says film tourism guide, Stefan Roesch of FilmQuest.

‘Where you have problems in local communities is when a scene has been filmed on private property and the fans want to get their photo of that exact scene. They’ll go running into a paddock in lambing season, just to get their perfect shot.’

In Ireland, iconic moments of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were filmed on Skellig Michael Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to nesting populations of several endangered species of seabirds.

Bird Watch Ireland and UNESCO have closely monitored film and tourism developments on the island and Tourism Ireland chief executive, Niall Gibbons, says there have been a lot of oversights to ensure we are not damaging the environment.

‘For example, we have to work around the black-legged kittiwake nesting season.’

In an urban situation Jake Downing, Weta Head of Tourism, said the company has engaged with the local community, for example, food and beverage and transport suppliers.

‘We get them involved in what we are doing. Also, the parking around Weta in Mirimar is terrible so we’ve tried to develop products where people don’t have to drive their cars here, they can come direct from the city on a tour.’

When we’ve had community engagement in discussions we’ve had great support, added Stephen England-Hall, Tourism New Zealand chief executive.

‘Hobbiton and Matamata is a good example, the local community are actively engaged in discussions, such as roading development around Hobbiton. They see and feel the benefits of tourism instead of being on the outside, then they would see risks and feel threatened. It’s about managing those interactions and I think there are places where we can do better.’